By Sebastian Herrera
Amazon.com Inc. on Thursday rolled out an array of new speaker
and security devices centered around the home and a new gaming
subscription service and controller, a set of new offerings tailor
made for the coronavirus era.
The devices include a home camera drone, a pivoting speaker with
a camera, a car alarm, a car camera, a cloud-connected gaming
controller and a number of other products and services.
The company announced new features for some existing products
such as using a television as a video-calling device with the Fire
TV media player and updated functions for its Alexa voice
assistant. Alexa now has the ability to read books to children or
detect if a baby is crying. It can also ask users to clarify
questions to "get smarter," Amazon says.
A new Alexa security feature named Guard Plus will be able to
detect sounds of activity around a customer's home when they are
away and trigger dog-barking or other noises to deter potential
"Our homes have become our offices, our classrooms, movie
theaters and more," David Limp, Amazon's head of devices and
services, said during the virtual event. "We believe that our homes
are made better by technology -- technology that you don't have to
learn and works well for everybody, whenever and wherever you
Amazon also unveiled a cloud-gaming subscription service,
joining Microsoft Corp., Alphabet Inc.'s Google and a handful of
others in giving people the ability to stream videogames over the
internet. Called Luna, it will feature a library of more than 50
games including Capcom Co.'s "Resident Evil 7" and be accessible
via computers, mobile devices and Fire TV. Luna will initially cost
$5.99 a month and come with the option to purchase a $50 custom
controller. People in most of the U.S. can request early access to
the service beginning Thursday.
Cloud gaming is a nascent market made up of only a few major
players. The appeal of the technology is that it enables people to
instantly access games, with no downloading required or the need to
invest in costly hardware such as a console or high-end PC. But so
far analysts say adoption appears to be minimal. An official launch
date for Luna wasn't disclosed.
Amazon showed off a flying security camera named Always Home Cam
that it said will fly automatically to predetermined areas of a
home. The camera, which will cost $249, will turn on when only it
is operating, Amazon said.
The company also revealed a new car camera and car alarm with
sensors to monitor potential break-ins. The alarm that includes a
camera, which costs $199.99, will begin recording if a user says
"Alexa, I'm being pulled over." Amazon said its car alarm can sync
with its Ring security system and is able to trigger cameras and
sirens. Video from its Ring devices will be encrypted.
Amazon will sell a new lineup of Echo smart speakers with a
spherical redesign. Starting at $99.99 for its flagship model, the
company is also making smaller speakers including a device with a
clock and a version for children with a tiger or panda design.
Alexa will have new capabilities that Amazon said will make the
assistant smarter. These include a new skill by Alexa to clarify
questions customers ask, which the company said over time will
enable Alexa to provide sharper answers. It also has a faster
processor that can improve artificial intelligence and
machine-learning functions, the company said.
Amazon said it is aiming to build more sustainable products. The
Echos unveiled Thursday are made of materials such as recycled
fabric and aluminum, and Amazon said the devices would feature low
power modes to make them more energy efficient.
The company held a virtual event for select viewers in place of
its annual showcase with an audience, which has generally been held
in the past at its Seattle headquarters.
Amazon uses its hardware event to showcase an array of products
and services featuring Alexa or internet-connected devices often
used for home security and surveillance. The reveals differ greatly
from those of competitors such as Apple, which typically announces
less than a handful of new products at its events.
To extend its reach in certain markets, Amazon has undercut
rivals in the past with sales and discounts for its devices and
hardware, occasionally selling products at cost to gain acceptance
among customers. The company has also used its hardware offerings
to steer consumers toward services such as a Prime membership.
Amazon's Echo Buds, for example, are priced at $129.99, although
the company at times has sold them at $89.99. Apple's cheapest
AirPods retail at $159.99, although they sometimes sell at a
discount as well. The AirPods, however, have been more popular and
accounted for nearly half of all sales of wireless earbuds in 2019,
according to Counterpoint Research.
Amazon's strategy puts less pressure on the company to establish
hardware hits compared with Apple or even Google, said Gene
Munster, an analyst at Loup Ventures, a venture-capital firm
specializing in tech research. The company is searching for its
next big hit after its Echo smart speakers were unveiled in
"Amazon takes these events as opportunities to basically do
market research about a product's viability," he said. "Amazon
isn't held to the same hardware standard as a company like Apple,
so they have more flexibility to experiment. Alexa began as an
The company usually offers steep discounts for its devices in
sales events, including during its annual Prime Day shopping
extravaganza, which this year is expected to be in mid-October.
Amazon earlier this year delayed the sales event, which usually
takes place in summer, as it initially struggled to respond to
heightened customer demand during the coronavirus pandemic.
Amazon has sought to integrate Alexa into as many products as
possible and experimented greatly with that goal. Last year's
event, which was highlighted by the Alexa-enabled Echo Buds, also
included announcements for eye frames and a finger ring featuring
Alexa that the company has only made available to select
There are few consumer categories in which Amazon is absent. In
late August, the company revealed a health and wellness tracker
named Halo that the company said tracks users' body-fat percentage,
heart rate, sleep and emotions. The band is retailing at $64.99,
but the price will rise to $99.99 after the initial rollout.
In recent years, the retailer has pushed itself further into the
smart-home and security industries. Much of that effort has
centered around its popular but controversial Ring cameras. As of
the second quarter this year, Amazon was the top vendor by
shipments in both the smart-speaker and video-doorbell categories,
according to Strategy Analytics.
Amazon has received backlash for partnering with hundreds of
police departments and allowing them potential access to users'
camera footage. The company in June said it was pausing
law-enforcement use of its facial-recognition software for a year
to allow Congress to implement regulatory measures around the use
of the technology.
--Sarah Needleman contributed to this article.
Write to Sebastian Herrera at Sebastian.Herrera@wsj.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 24, 2020 15:39 ET (19:39 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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